Tribute – Sir John Tooley (1924-2020)

It is with sadness that we learn of the death of the former Chair of the Nureyev Foundation, Sir John Tooley, on 18 March 2020 at the age of 95.

The majority of Sir John’s illustrious career took place at the Royal Opera House, London, which he joined in 1955, becoming assistant to the General Administrator in 1960 and eventually taking over that role in 1970 until his retirement as General Director in 1988.  For his memories of Nureyev during that time, please read this page.

He remained a senior figure in the musical world and in 1995, at the suggestion of Lord Rothschild, he was invited to become Chair of the Nureyev Foundation. Up to that point the Foundation had to sort out the Foundation’s affairs following the death of Nureyev in 1993; Sir John, as Executive Chair, was able to steer Nureyev’s wishes for the Foundation – to give support to dancers and their needs, to celebrate his memory and to provide for his family – so that it played an active role in preserving his priorities and channelling financial assistance as best it could.

Sir John was an energetic Chair, working from an office in Bath in the UK but travelling widely to promote the Foundation’s activities, including the search for a permanent lieu de mémoire which was finally identified at the Centre National du Costume de Scène at Moulins in France (by the time it opened in 2013, Sir John was sadly too ill to travel there).
In 2008, at the age of 84, he finally retired from the Foundation and, realising that its interests would best be served by a smaller administrative base, the Secretariat of the Foundation was subsequently moved to Zurich and Dr Claude Blum, who had been Nureyev’s lawyer, took over the Chair. The Foundation owes much to Sir John for the work he did in preserving and establishing Rudolf Nureyev’s great legacy and ensuring that his Foundation remains a provider of support and recognition for dancers, audiences and those who cherish his memory.


Photo copyright : Royal Opera House / Clive Barda